One of the most common features in superhero movies is someone close to the protagonist getting killed off. Gwen Stacy’s brutal death in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Jonathan Kent getting killed by a tornado in Man of Steel are just two such tragedies that come to mind.
Although rare, there are times when the heroes themselves get the ax. Many movies have shown superheroes die in ways both noble and tragic, from self-sacrifice to a brutal battle with the film’s villain. The demises on this list prove that being a crime-fighter isn’t all fun and games, so be prepared to cry all over again with the best superhero deaths in movies.
Warning: There are spoilers for the 2022 films Black Adam and Thor: Love and Thunder.
18. X-Force (Deadpool 2)
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Halfway into this film, Deadpool assembles a team of mutants to break Russell out of prison and protect him from Cable. But after the movie built up Deadpool and his X-Force to save the day, things take a shocking turn when members of the team get killed off one by one as they parachute down from the sky, with Deadpool and Domino being the only survivors.
Such fatalities involve getting hit by a bus, shredded by a helicopter, electrocuted on a telephone, ground up in wood chipper, and burned by acidic vomit. It’s a gory and hilarious scene that defies the audience’s expectations in a way that only a Deadpool story can.
17. The Ancient One (Doctor Strange)
After a brutal fight with Kaecilius, the Ancient One is rushed to the hospital by Doctor Strange. As her body dies, she and Strange share one last conversation in the astral plane. Discussing all the possible futures she has seen, the Ancient One expresses the great potential that Strange has in stopping Dormammu, as well as how they are both unprepared for their respective fates, just like everyone else.
This is beautifully emphasized in how she watches the snow as time slowly passes, showing how much she wishes to keep living even in that slowed down second, with death looming over her for eternity. In the end, she gives in to the inevitable, and her death marks the final transformation of Stephen Strange from a cold man to an empathetic superhero.
16. Batman (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
While Bruce is asleep at his computer, he has a vision of a future in which the Earth is ruled by Darkseid and Superman is a brainwashed servant of the evil god. Batman is seen trying to acquire Kryptonite to use against the Man of Steel, but he is eventually tricked and captured by Superman’s stormtroopers before being presented to him in chains.
After he rips off Bruce’s mask, Superman places his hand on his old friend’s chest and drives it through his heart in a gruesome homage to Superman killing the Joker in the Injustice comic book. Though Bruce’s death technically hasn’t happened yet, this nightmarish depiction of the Dark Knight’s demise is a haunting glimpse of what could happen in the DC Universe.
15. Loki (Avengers: Infinity War)
Avengers: Infinity War wasted no time in getting to the bloodshed, as it showed Thanos and his Black Order murder half of the Asgardian survivors, as well as the God of Mischief himself. Loki feigns loyalty to his former master after surrendering the Tesseract to him, but like the trickster he is, he tries to stab the evil Titan, declaring himself to be the son of Odin.
Audiences had spent years watching Loki walk a rocky path toward redemption, and just when he finds it, it is horrifying to see his life get snuffed out when Thanos snaps his neck right in front of Thor. It’s a death that haunts even Loki, who is once again alive through a series of time loops that occurred in Endgame and his self-titled Disney+ series.
14. Deadpool (Deadpool 2)
Deadpool delivered on his promise to one-up Wolverine by dying in his second film. After saving Russell from Cable’s gunshot, the depowered Wade succumbs to his wounds and dies with his friends around him. Even during his last moments alive, he can’t help but crack a few jokes as he fumbles to nail his death scene, showing how he is the Merc with a Mouth to the very end. While Cable does go back in time to save him shortly afterward, it is still nice to see Wade reunite with his true love, Vanessa, on the other side.
13. Jean Grey (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Though it looked like Jean had sacrificed herself to save her Marvel mutant comrades in X2: X-Men United, she returns as the evil Phoenix in the much-anticipated but divisive third film, The Last Stand. At the end of the movie, when the Phoenix starts destroying everything around her, Wolverine snaps Jean out of her wild state, and she begs him to save her and the world from her uncontrollable wrath.
There were plenty of problems with this film, but it still executed Jean’s sacrifice perfectly by having the man who loved her regretfully kill her to save the world. And though Jean was technically the villain of this film, she still went out as a hero instead of her darker half.
12. Doctor Fate (Black Adam)
Throughout this recent blockbuster, Doctor Fate sees visions of Hawkman being killed and Kahndaq being destroyed. Though the wise sorcerer believes in destiny, he eventually decides to create a future in which Hawkman survives by facing the evil Sabbac alone. Summoning an army of clones, Fate holds off the demon while freeing Adam from his prison so he can save the day.
In the end, Fate exhausts all his power and gets killed by Sabbac, but he vanishes with a smile on his face, knowing that he left his friends and the world with a bright future. Since his death was in a comic book movie, there’s no guarantee he’s gone forever. After all, several people on this list have since come back to the land of the living. Nevertheless, it’s still a sad and powerful demise for such a noble hero in his very first film.
11. Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy)
During the Guardians’ battle against Ronan, Rocket crashes his ship into the Accuser, sending his vessel, The Dark Aster, plummeting toward Xandar. As Ronan’s ship falls toward the city below, Groot shields his fellow Guardians in a cocoon of vines, knowing that he’ll die protecting them.
Though Rocket doesn’t understand why his friend is sacrificing himself to save them, Groot wipes a tear from the former’s face and says, “We are Groot.” Though Groot wasn’t too big with words, this final line from the benevolent tree speaks volumes about how he feels about his team.
10. Charles Xavier (Logan)
When an aging Charles has a late-night visitor, thinking it’s Logan, he says he enjoyed the perfect day he shared with him and Laura. But at that moment, Charles remembers how he accidentally killed his dear X-Men with his psychic powers during a seizure, feeling he doesn’t deserve such happiness.
It’s painful to see Xavier look back on his life and see only the mistakes that he made to the point that he seems to wish for death. Ironically, he seems to get his wish when he finds himself stabbed by X-24, the spitting image of his best friend, Logan. This certainly isn’t the first or last time audiences saw Professor X die on the screen, but it is undoubtedly the saddest.
9. Gamora (Avengers: Infinity War)
When Thanos and Gamora seek out the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir, the former learns he must sacrifice someone he loves in order to claim it. At first, Gamora laughs victoriously, thinking that Thanos can never get the stone because he never loved anyone. But in an ironic twist, she learns that Thanos did feel love for her and plans to kill her for the stone.
Gamora’s death isn’t just horrifying; Thanos choosing to sacrifice her shows that, despite his dark nature, he still has the capacity for love (or what he thinks is love), and the fact that he acquired the stone proves it.
8. Jane Foster (Thor: Love and Thunder)
In Marvel Studios’ fourth Thor film, Jane Foster returns just as she’s battling terminal cancer, hoping that the hammer Mjolnir can help her fight off her fatal disease. Unfortunately, she learns that she becomes too weak to live with her affliction every time she transforms out of her superpowered state. However, she still uses the last of her strength to defeat Gorr the God Butcher, and she succumbs to her cancer and dies in Thor’s arms.
It’s heartbreaking to see Jane leave just as she returned to the franchise in a much better way. Nevertheless, she still gets a peaceful death knowing that she got a chance to be a superhero and fight alongside her true love, Thor. She also whispers her final catchphrase into his ear in a farewell that harks back to Lost in Translation that fans will likely ponder for years to come.
7. Yondu (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
After succeeding in destroying his wicked father, Ego, Peter Quill gets carried off into space by Yondu as the Celestial’s planet implodes around them. However, Yondu gives Quill his own space suit so he can survive the cold vacuum of space, and Peter is forced to watch his adoptive father die right in front of him. It’s a surprisingly dark death in such an upbeat film, but it shows that Yondu did care for Peter, despite his failings as a parent, and it is only until this moment that the latter acknowledges him as the David Hasselhoff he wanted as a dad.
6. Spider-Man (Avengers: Infinity War)
After Thanos gains all six Infinity Stones, he snaps his fingers and turns half of all life into dust. Though many other beloved heroes vanish in an instant, Spider-Man’s body struggles to cling to life as he slowly disintegrates. When Peter falls into Tony’s arms, he breaks out in tears and goes from a proud superhero to a kid begging for his life.
Many audiences knew that this wasn’t the end of Spider-Man, but it still doesn’t detract from what a tearjerker his death was, and it is only made more emotional by how Tom Holland, according to his video on GQ, improvised his infamous line, “I don’t wanna go.”
5. Superman (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
In the final battle against Doomsday, Wonder Woman and Batman hold off the beast as Superman retrieves the latter’s Kryptonite spear. After proclaiming his love for Earth and Lois, Superman flies toward Doomsday with the spear and drives it into his chest. Unfortunately, Doomsday pierces Superman’s heart with a bone protruding from his arm.
But this does not stop the Man of Steel, as he drives the bone further into himself so he can force the spear through the monster’s chest, effectively killing them both. Though the film had its flaws in adapting “The Death of Superman,” his noble sacrifice is both a beautiful tribute to 1981’s Excalibur and an emotional juggernaut elevated by Hans Zimmer’s stirring musical score.
4. Rorschach (Watchmen)
In this film, Ozymandias prevents World War III from breaking out by bombing many major cities worldwide and framing the attacks on the all-powerful Dr. Manhattan. Though the Watchmen decide to hide the truth to prevent Armageddon from starting up again, Rorschach refuses to compromise and leaves to expose Ozymandias, only to be stopped by Manhattan himself. The world around them literally freezes as the snowflakes stop falling, which leaves the focus on this emotional bout between a man and a god.
Jackie Earl Haley delivers a poignant final scene as Rorschach, removing his mask to show his true sadness as he goads Dr. Manhattan into killing him. And when the Doctor waves his hand and vaporizes Rorschach, Nite Owl lets out an agonizing and unforgettable cry as he watches his friend die. Though Rorschach was a morally questionable vigilante, he still firmly believed that the people should know the truth and deserve justice, which makes his death a tragic loss for the heroes’ integrity.
3. Vision (Avengers: Infinity War)
When Thanos arrives in Wakanda to retrieve Vision’s Mind Stone, Wanda is left with no other choice but to destroy the stone and kill the man she loves to save the universe. As the Avengers struggle to slow Thanos down, Wanda reluctantly uses her magic to shatter the Mind Stone as Vision dies a painfully slow death.
But this proves all for naught, as Thanos rewinds time and revives Vision so he can take the stone, which ends up killing him again. It’s not often that a film shows a character getting killed twice in a few minutes, but Vision’s dual demise stands out for how it pushed Wanda to the emotional brink as she realizes that she took her true love’s life for nothing.
2. Logan (Logan)
In Wolverine’s last roundup, he faces off against his clone, X-24, and the Reavers to rescue Laura and her friends. Logan injects himself with a serum that enhances his powers, but he is still overpowered by X-24, who impales him on a tree branch before getting shot dead by Laura.
With his final breaths, Logan tells Laura not to become the killer that she was made to be, putting an end to the cycle of violence that has haunted him and his family for so long. Also, after many years of fighting and suffering, Logan is finally at peace knowing that he saved his daughter, making for a tearful end to such an iconic character.
1. Iron Man (Avengers: Endgame)
In the Avengers’ climactic last stand, Thanos fights his way through the heroes’ army to claim the Infinity Stones for himself, and he nearly succeeds in using their power to destroy the universe. But after Thanos snaps his fingers, he is shocked to see that Tony took the Stones from his hand and merged them with his armor.
Uttering his now immortal catchphrase, Tony snaps his fingers and wipes out Thanos and his army, only to die from using the Stones’ power. Though his death is sad, he passes peacefully knowing that he had saved the universe, and he is honored and mourned by all the friends and allies that he helped bring together as a team.
Sleep well, Mr. Stark. You won’t be forgotten.